21st Century Literature discussion

Book Chat > 2017, How Was Your Year in Reading?

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message 1: by Whitney (last edited Dec 31, 2017 03:43PM) (new)

Whitney | 2102 comments Mod
What were your favorite books that you read this year? Least favorite books? Books that surprised you one way or another?

This discussion is for any books you read, not just 21st Century.

Two of my favorites were series. The first is N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth series, which was just incredible. The complete package of world building, amazingly constructed plotting, compelling characters, social insight, and excellent writing. The second is Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past series. Arguably the best hard science fiction series I've ever read.

My surprise favorite was Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories. I knew (and loved) Ryūnosuke Akutagawa from stories with a bit of a weird bent, like Rashomon and The Hell Screen. This collection also has autobiographical stories about his largely failed life as a very flawed person, the stories are very personal and frequently devastating.

A few others I really loved were Human Acts, Signs Preceding the End of the World, and Binti (looking forward to the others in this series).

Most disappointing was All the Birds in the Sky. Not a horrible book, but it inspired so much love from other people that I expected to appreciate it much more than I did.

message 2: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
Thanks Whitney.

Favourites: Reservoir 13, A Line Made by Walking and Wizard of the Crow. Closely followed by Autumn andPlaying Possum among others.

At the other end of the scale, I only awarded one two star review - I really didn't get on with The Orphan Master's Son, mostly because it felt too much a set of grisly anecdotes and not enough of a human story.

I will have to think about what surprised me most - I like to approach books with an open mind, though Days Without End was an audacious departure from Barry's familiar themes.

message 3: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2318 comments An perfect question for the end of the year and right in line with what I've been thinking about, which is what books do I still remember and what books do I have no clue what they are about, even though I ranked them as a 4 or 5 star read. I started thinking about this when I was checking my audible list to download the next few listening reads. I saw Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, books I read many years ago but which I still remember vividly. I wondered if any of the 5 star books I read this year would have the same staying power.

I read the last two books of the Broken Earth series in 2017 and agree with Whitney that the series as a whole was amazing in all respects. I am sure I will never forget it and will recommend it over and over. I was particularly taken with the books in translation that I read this year, especially Visitation, Iza's Ballad, Angel of Oblivion, and A General Theory of Oblivion. On the translation side, I also read three books published by Open Door in 2017. They were not favorites. I really had to work to finish them, but they have certainly stuck in my head. They are Chronicle of the Murdered House, Radiant Terminus, and Frontier.

Three books on the Man Booker longlist were favorites -- Autumn, Reservoir 13, and Elmet. 4321 was also on the longlist, but I had read it months before. I had pre-ordered it and it lived up to my expectations.

The 2017 National Book Award for fiction was also a favorite (and the only book nominated for that prize that I gave 5 stars) -- Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Four other books stand out in 2017: Do Not Say We Have Nothing, The Noise of Time, Brat Farrar, and Stories of Your Life and Others.

Like Whitney, I was underwhelmed by All the Birds in the Sky, but the two books that really disappointed because I expected to like them were The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia and Her Body and Other Parties.

The book that really surprised me was one I bought at a book signing a few years ago and put on the shelf. It was about Botswana and South Africa before South Africa mended its apartheid ways. It was heart wrenching and deserves a broader audience -- White Dog Fell from the Sky.

message 4: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 266 comments I see a lot of titles here I really must get to in 2018! But a big thanks to this group for introducing me to some wonderful reads this year, in particular The Big Green Tent, The Gustav Sonata, How It All Began, Oryx and Crake and Orfeo.

My other favorite 21st Century read was The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.

You tempted me so much I didn't get as many classics read, but of the ones I did, these were my favorites:
Giovanni's Room
Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda
The Remains of the Day, and
Zorba the Greek

I had a marvelous year of reading!

message 5: by Neil (new)

Neil | 306 comments A lot of my favourite books from 2017came from being given the opportunity to be one of the judges of the Republic Of Consciousness Prize which is for the small, independent presses in the UK and Ireland. I read some wonderful books as part of that, perhaps especially Playing Possum and An Overcoat: Scenes from the Afterlife Of H.B.. The whole long list is strong, though, and it was a privilege to help with selection. I am looking forward to helping to decide on the short list and then the winner.

message 6: by Marc (last edited Dec 31, 2017 04:57PM) (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2639 comments Mod
I think Absalom, Absalom!, The Sea, the Sea, and Signs Preceding the End of the World were probably my favorite reads with a handful of graphic novels closely following (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1, The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Saga, Vol. 1)). I thoroughly enjoyed The Broken Earth series. Biggest disappointment was probably The Association of Small Bombs (wasn't bad--I just had really high hopes). Lowest rated book was All the Birds in the Sky--I'm not even sure why I had such a negative, visceral reaction to this book, but I did (and that's rare).

message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert | 426 comments 2017 started badly, reading wise but then by March I got into a steady groove. Highlights were Ali Smith's Autumn and Winter, Emma Donoghue's Room and Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Low points - I didn't like Philip Roth's I married a communist and Emily Friedlund's History of Wolves.
In order to select my books i use a TBR jar but in December I said to hell with it and read a handful of thin books on my 210 strong tbr pile - that felt good.

message 8: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
I got pretty lucky in 2017 and mostly read books I either really enjoyed or didn't think were too bad.

I finally read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and absolutely loved it - this will be one I will likely revisit one day.

It was a great year for animal/nature books - three of my favorites were Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith, The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman, and Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal.

I think the books that may stay with me the most are Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin, Human Acts by Han Kang, and Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

The books I enjoyed least, were bored by, or just didn't really like were (didn't think any were bad, just didn't care for them): The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney, Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett, and 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster.

message 9: by Linda (new)

Linda Brunner (welpony) If I had to choose 2 writers that were compelling and entertaining for me this year, it would be Jim Harrison...any but Brown Dog got me started on a rapid fire journey through his work. Sadly, he passed over recently so that's it folks from a great story teller.

And M.J. Rose's magical and atmospheric series, Daughters of LaLune. Great stuff. Out of the mundane.

This year, I'm hoping to stumble upon some of the same just wanna read page turners. They are few and far between.

message 10: by Peter (last edited Jan 03, 2018 06:18PM) (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments So I went through my list of books read, and looked at those that for some reason I gave a 5 star rating. Probably I should have cut the list down some more, but I'm not feeling that ambitious at the moment.

The books I liked best in 2017 were a rather random lot:
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,
Forbidden Line,
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster,
The Machinery of Life,
Lovecraft Country,
A Tyranny of Queens,
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer,
The Nameless City and The Stone Heart,
Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway,
Lab Girl,
Silence Fallen,
The Hanging Tree,
The Burning Page,
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy,
A Hundred Thousand Worlds, and
Summer in Orcus.

Hm. I don't know if this list is an indication of my tastes, or just something to do with what books passed my way in 2017.

message 12: by carissa (last edited Jan 03, 2018 05:32PM) (new)

carissa the 2017 wind-down

I tried a few other groups on GoodReads in 2017. Few have kept my interest. 21st Century Literature is a keeper!

Thanks everyone for all the interesting group reading choices and discussion.

message 13: by Franky (new)

Franky | 107 comments Everyone has some great books on their lists, some of which I need to read when I get time.

It was a fairly good year reading. I would like to try to squeeze more time for some of the classics that I never got to read, or the books that have been sitting on my to-read pile for awhile.

I really enjoyed An Officer and a Spy. In fact, it might have been my favorite read of the year, along with Vertigo. Both 5 stars for me.

I do felt like I had a lot of 3 star, so-so books this year. Not bad, but not very memorable.

Well, I'm looking forward to 2018.

message 14: by SueLucie (last edited Jan 04, 2018 02:09AM) (new)

SueLucie | 33 comments My favourites this year were

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty
A Line Made by Walking
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Days Without End
Anything Is Possible

I detect an Irish theme emerging. There certainly is some great writing coming out of Ireland these days and I plan to catch up with the Barry, Boyle and MacLaverty back catalogues this year.

I am new to this group and was delighted with group reads of Visitation and Sweetland. Looking forward to joining in more discussions this year.

message 15: by Anita (new)

Anita | 103 comments The two favorites that came to my mind were "A Gentleman in Moscow" and "Lincoln in the Bardo." I NEVER read books more than once, but those two I did read twice.

message 16: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 236 comments I'm very much into re-telling of myths. Two books that I absolutely loved in 2017 were Ransom by David Malouf and Bright Air Black by David Vann.

message 17: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Izaguirre (sweetji) | 120 comments Whitney, my list is pretty similar to yours, I finished Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past series this year and it blew me away.
I am currently reading N.K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate and I am loving it, her world building really is great, and the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy is great, unlike All the Birds in the Sky, which also really dissapointed me.

My year in reading was slow as I tried finishing Infinite Jest unsuccessfully.

Other books I loved were Human Acts, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

message 18: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2472 comments As I look back, it feels as if my most significant book reading in 2017 was in books I didn't finish, even get as far as I should have liked: Plato's Republic and commentaries thereon, Cicero's On Duties, and a couple of others of that ilk. More time was spent with newspapers and magazines, following probably a bit too much the sad soap opera of American politics.

I did enjoy A Gentleman in Moscow, including a fun exchange with a professional reviewer on the political improbability of this tale of a protagonist we both found admirable.

I was surprised by Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and also enjoyed News of the World, Born a Crime, Born to Run and Ordinary Grace. I probably learned the most about literature from The World Broke in Two. I was disappointed or irritated by two "big" ones: The Underground Railroad and Hillbilly Elegy.

message 19: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 452 comments My favorite books of 2017, in no particular order:

The Ten Thousand Things by Maria Dermoût
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Sunlight on a Broken Column by Attia Hosain
The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam
Refuge by Dina Nayeri
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
The Forgiven by Lawrence Osborne
Passing by Nella Larsen
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki

Least favorite books, including a couple of surprise disappointments, marked with asterisks:

In the Eye of the Sun by Ahdaf Soueif
*The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
*The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
The Glass Devil by Helene Tursten
Unlucky Lottery by Håkan Nesser

In the bucket of good surprises were 2 nonfiction books:

The Wet and the Dry: Ventures into Worlds Where Alcohol Is Embraced...or Forbidden by Lawrence Osborne, and
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse.

My Reading in 2017 summary is linked here:


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